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Push for Return of Failed Duluth Passenger Train Reaches State Capitol

Old rail lines never die. They keep chugging along, powered by just enough taxpayer funding for the required environmental and operational studies to maintain bureaucratic momentum over the years. Then out of nowhere comes a PR offensive this week to herald the return of the failed Amtrak passenger rail service between the Twin Cities and Twin Ports with a series of public events at both ends of the line, including the State Capitol. A top Amtrak official will hold an open-house today at the Duluth Depot with a pitch to turn back the clock to the 1980s defunct Northstar line. Now rebranded...

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How Much Do Duplicate Medical Assistance/MinnCare Accounts Cost Taxpayers?

Healthcare coverage for the one million Minnesotans enrolled in Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare programs costs state taxpayers more than $5 billion a year. We already know from a past legislative auditor report that tens of thousands of Minnesotans receive healthcare coverage they do not qualify for at a cost to state taxpayers that’s believed to be hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Now it turns out the Minnesota Department of Human Services has been issuing duplicate identities for an unknown number of Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare enrollees, overpaying insurers an unknown amount of taxpayer funds as a result. The bombshell came out at...

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Democratic Senators Move to Disenfranchise Minnesotans

Two Democratic Senators, Charles Wiger and John Marty, have introduced S.F.34, a bill that would enlist Minnesota in the national effort to do away with the Electoral College and decide the presidency on the basis of the "national popular vote," a journalistic construct with no constitutional significance. The proposed legislation is called the Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote. States that subscribe to it pledge to choose their electors not according to the wishes of that state's voters, but rather in obedience to the "national popular vote." The Agreement goes into effect when it...

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Some parts of the federal government should stay shut down

We are entering the third week of the federal government shut down and American society has not devolved to the level of Fury Road. The fact that the United States has continued to function more or less as it did before with something like 25% of the federal government shut down demonstrates that federal government is at least 25% too big. ...

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MN City Battles Feds and State to Close Small Airport

The city of Silver Bay can no longer afford the luxury of spending $35,000 a year maintaining a municipal airport. “I’ve got 20 some miles of 50-year old road,” Silver Bay Mayor Scott Johnson said. “Don’t you think I should spend some maintenance on that instead of the airport?” But neither can the small northeastern Minnesota city afford to close the deteriorating airfield, faced with the threat of $10,000 a day in fines by the Federal Aviation Administration and a bill for $760,000 in “free” government grants the feds and state want to claw back. “I think they’re (the FAA) is going to...

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Is Government Shutdown New Business as Usual?

In case you hadn't noticed, the federal government remains shut down, sort of. More than a week later, it's hard to get a handle on the impact of the latest stoppage, unless you're among the  estimated 350,000 workers given an early pass for Christmas or 400,000 working without pay. But judging from the Bemidji Pioneer's account, there's relatively little immediate fallout to report in the northwestern Minnesota regional center, a likely barometer for other cities and towns. Some local offices for federal departments are remaining fully open during the shutdown, though. The Bemidji Social Security Office, located at 2900 Hannah Ave. NW...

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Our Take: Complicated Economics of Community Solar Gardens Subject of Debate

The Star Tribune recently ran an article called "Complicated economics of community solar gardens subject of debate." Seeing how the Strib did not seek our opinion on the topic for their article, I'm providing it below. First and foremost, Minnesota's Community Solar installations are a mess. These solar installations are small, inefficient, and expensive. According to the article in the Star Tribune, Xcel Energy currently purchases power from the solar gardens at a price of 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour, which is 4.3 times more expensive than the electricity generated at the Sherburne County (Sherco) coal-fired power plant in 2016. Cost data for...

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Dayton Leaves Big MNLARS Mess Behind

He's only a year and a half late. But even Gov. Dayton now admits the MNLARS vehicle registration system rolled out on his watch has been nothing short of "disastrous." The latest appearance by Dayton's team before an oversight committee left many lawmakers aghast this week again. It didn't exactly enhance their credibility when the state's top tech and public safety officials claimed that getting up to answering almost 60 percent of their calls and delivering one-third of 32,000 REAL ID license applications represents progress. “Eighteen months,” said Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska), co-chair of the [MNLARS Steering] Committee. “Are we more than...

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Roseville Whiffs on Liquor License for New $3 Million Golf Clubhouse

Municipal golf courses are notorious money losers for the taxpayers of most local governments that get into the game. Just four of 35 municipal courses named in the Minnesota State Auditor's most recent available report on city finances managed not to run an operating loss in 2016. In fact, more golf courses have closed than have opened across the country every year since 2006. This year, the City of West St. Paul shut down the 9-hole Thompson Oaks municipal "executive" track after years of losing seasons. Nevertheless, the Twin Cities suburb of Roseville recently doubled down on its 9-hole course, investing $3...

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